What is a bunion?

A bunion is a deformity characterized by lateral deviation of the great toe, often described as an enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the head of the big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint). As the great toe (hallux) turns in toward the second toe (hallus valgus), the tissues surrounding the joint may become swollen and tender.

This answer provided for NATA by the Eastern University Athletic Training Education Program.

Dr. Curtis C. Pedersen, DPM
Podiatrist (Foot Specialist)

A bunion is a misalignment of the joint at the base of the big toe—the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint—that forms when the bone or tissue at the big toe joint moves out of place. This forces the big toe to bend toward the others, causing an often-painful lump of bone on the inside of the foot. Since this joint carries a lot of the body’s weight while walking, bunions can cause extreme pain if left untreated. The MTP joint itself may become stiff and sore, making even the wearing of shoes difficult or impossible.

A bunion forms when the first metatarsal starts to move away from the foot, shifting over time.

A bunion is a prominence on your big toe that creates tenderness.

A bump of bone or tissue that forms at the big toe joint or, less frequently, at the joint of the little toe, a bunion can rub against the inside of a shoe, causing inflammation of the bursa (the fluid-filled sac surrounding the metatarsal joint) and considerable pain.

Dr. Christopher P. Chiodo, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

A bunion isn't a growth, but rather a misalignment of the bones in the foot. This occurs when the metatarsophalangeal joint and the first metatarsal of the toe deviate away from the other metatarsal bones, causing the big toe to turn inward, bending toward (or even under) the other toes. The medical term for bunion—a hallux valgus deformity—is a more literal description of the condition. Hallux is Latin for big toe, and valgus is Latin for misalignment. A bunionette is a similar condition affecting the base of the small fifth toe and is sometimes called a "tailor's bunion," because tailors once sat cross-legged all day, with the outer sides of their feet rubbing on the ground.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

A bunion is a bony growth or area of inflammation or swelling near the base of the big toe that causes the big toe to point inward and crowd the other toes. Although bunions can be the result of a congenital (dating from birth) disorder, they often develop from wearing shoes that are too tight. Bunions can be very painful. To help relieve this pain, take over-the-counter pain relievers and wear comfortable shoes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.